Sheepshead Bay may currently be struggling to keep its streets clean, but back in the day, the area was a swank resort featuring gambling and ritzy hotels, according to Brooklyn’s official historian.
About 75 locals showed up at Royal Bay Restaurant on Sheepshead Bay Road for a lecture by Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger on Aug. 13 about the prestigious past of Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, and Manhattan Beach.
Schweiger said the area was once known for its casino and racetrack — and the Brighton Beach boardwalk that is so beloved now was just a narrow plank until the 1920s. The beach looked rather different, as well, due to the very strict dress code.
“Women had to wear leggings — men had to wear shirts, like tank tops,” said Schweiger, who has been doing history programs for more than 30 years. “Otherwise they’d be arrested — really.”
Schweiger brought out old photographs of the area, and said the audience couldn’t believe how different their hometown used to look.
“I showed them all these pictures to show them what is was like where they live now,” said Schweiger. “The audience went, ‘Oh my goodness.’ ”
And Schweiger couldn’t talk about the tourist hotspots without mentioning the man who made Coney Island meaty — Charles Feltman, who decided the frankfurter should be eaten with a bun.
“People complained it was too hot — they couldn’t pick it up,” said Schweiger. “So he added the bun.”
The historian also said the seemingly innocuous term “hot dog” came later, after a graphic 1907 photograph of a dog in distress spurred a rumor that a frankfurter was really mutt meat.
“That’s where the term hot dog comes from, that nasty rumor, he said.”
Schweiger, who also gives walking tours around Brooklyn, said he enjoys seeing how astonished locals are when they learn about their neighborhood’s past.
“They don’t really know the history behind where it is,” said Schweiger.
©2014 Community News Group
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